News International sanctioned the use of private detectives as recently as six months ago to conduct surveillance and compile dossiers on the private lives of three lawyers who are leading damages claims against the 'News of the World' for illegal phone hacking.
One of the lawyers, Mark Lewis, whose clients include the family of the murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, told an English newspaper that the use of private detectives against him "crossed a new line" and threatened his ability to do his job.
The reports gathered on the lawyers include claims about their personal lives, political beliefs and health.
The dossiers were submitted to senior executives at Rupert Murdoch's newspaper group at a time when it was still seeking to limit the hacking scandal by insisting voicemail interception was restricted to a single "rogue" reporter.
The Law Society described the allegations as "another low point" in the hacking scandal and said it had written to the British government's public inquiry into the row, headed by Lord Justice Henry Leveson, asking for the issue to be explored in the course of its investigations into illegal newsgathering. According the the English paper's sources, Tom Crone, the NOTW's former chief lawyer, will be asked by MPs on Tuesday who at News International was responsible for sanctioning the snooping operation against the lawyers, who include Charlotte Harris and Mark Thomson.
Mr Crone will be questioned by the House of Commons' Media Select Committee. (© Independent News Service).